How to stay warm in Malta during winter

The issue comes up every single winter. Every other status update on Facebook has to do with people desperately trying to keep warm in Malta during the winter, so instead of responding to everyone individually I decided to write a proper guide for everyones benefit. When I was designing my house I did a solid breakdown of the best ways to most efficiently and economically keep your habitat warm in Malta during winter. It’s not that cold in Malta compared to the rest of Europe but the lack of insulation in the houses and the high humidity makes it feel much worse. In fact, sometimes it’s actually warmer outside during the day, than it is inside. Also, the times we live in mean climate change and never before seen numbers with heat and cold as well as drought and rainfall. But let’s not get into those politics right now. Let’s talk about how to get you warm.

If you just want the quickest answer without reading the stuff below, the simple answer is that oil filled radiators are your best option. Why? Because gas has more than doubled in price in 5 years and it’s still going up every year. It also causes condensation, which means higher humidity. The oil filled radiator will heat your room efficiently and has the added bonus of dehumidifying at the same time. I have a DeLonghi V550920B. If you want the details and more heating options, read on.

If you ask a Maltese, they will most likely tell you that gas is the cheapest and most efficient way to heat up your habitat. That may have been true 10 years ago when one gas tank cost 6 euro or less. Today it’s priced at 18 euro and continuously increasing in price. Also you have to keep in mind that gas creates water when it burns so if you thought your apartment was humid, it will only get worse. Running a regular gas heater for, let’s say 6 hours per day will consume an entire tank in 10 days or less, depending on the settings of course. Currently priced at 18 euro/tank, that means running one gas heater will cost you about 60 euro per month. So you see, it’s both expensive and inefficient because you will pay a lot for the generated heat and you will add more humidity to your rooms in the process. Personally I also don’t like the smell they cause and I don’t like the idea of having a live flame around pets and kids, not to mention in front of an explosive gas tank, even if I know accidents almost never happen.

v550920bIn my opinion, and I’m neither a scientist nor an expert in the field, the best way to go is by using an oil filled radiator. There’s a great misconception about the way they function which often makes the calculations incorrect when crunching the numbers. Sure, a good size radiator can pull about 2 kw/h but any somewhat modern and decent model has a thermostat. This means, once you’ve reached the desired temperature, it switches off and doesn’t turn itself on until the thermostat tells it to. Of course the numbers in this case would vary depending on outside temperature, insulation, draft etc but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s active 30 minutes per hour. That would mean 1kw per hour and that costs about 15 cents. So if you run it for 6 hours per day that’s a modest 30 euro per month on the maximum setting. Not to forget, you get the added bonus of dehumidifying the air at the same time. My personal favorite among heaters is the cabinet design that has closed sides to heat up the core more and it sucks in the cold air from the floor and quite passionately shoots it up, thus creating a natural airflow in the process. I have a DeLonghi V550920B.

If you don’t mind the cold that much but suffer from the humidity, simply get a dehumidifier. Most of them work the same way and do the same job with more or less the same amount of noise. I bought the 20 litre model from Meaco. Just keep in mind, the amount of litres is not an indication of how much water they can hold, it’s how much water they can pull out from the air per day, but they come with a hose so you can connect it to a drain for continuous drainage.

For you tea candle loving folks out there, you can check out this video for quite an interesting and cozy way of heating and dehumidifying. I’ve tried it and it does indeed work for smaller rooms, unless you go Godzilla style and take in your massive garden flower pots:  http://youtu.be/1l4jg_FJ5Yc

Infrared-Heating-PanelThere is also infrared technology that they build into panels or mirrors that you can hang on the wall, all to make them inconspicuous. I looked into them last year and while they consume less electricity than the oil radiator, they work like a microwave oven in that they only heat up whatever gets hit by the infrared waves. That means, it doesn’t actually heat up the air and if there’s an object (including a human being) between you and the panel, you won’t feel a thing. Some people build them into their ceiling soffits over the living room couch or bed, but if you don’t own the property you’re living in, that might prove difficult to pull off.

Speaking of owning property. If you are planning to renovate or build a new house and you’re wondering what your best option is, I can highly recommend electric floor heating (but for frogs sake, insulate the floor first). At a humble temperature of 22 degrees on the floor, you will feel warm and toasty at the same consumption cost (or less) as a oil filled radiator. Radiators are great, but having constant warm air emit from the floor everywhere in the room is just unbeatable. The principle is the same though, it reaches the desired temperature and switches off, then turns on to top off the heat once it cools down. A regular size room will cost you around 500-700 euro to have it installed and you can put them under both tiles and parquet. So whatever floor you’re installing, you’re covered. I had mine installed by my good friend Peter Schulte. He’s a German perfectionist with great service and followthrough (who should give me a discount on the instalment for my new house, right?). Check out his website and shoot him an email if you’re curious about his services: www.hps24.com

If you barely spend any time at home but freeze your ass off at night in bed (and hate to wear clothes in bed. No seriously, it’s a crime against nature), a simple and extremely cheap solution is an electric mattress. Yes, mattress, not blanket. It’s big, covers the whole mattress and you put it under your own mattress and enjoy the crispy warmth when you get in at night.

image_1The good ol’ hot water bottle has to get an honorary mention as well. Pick one up for around 5 euro at any large supermarket or pharmacy and put it close to you while you’re slacking in front of the TV. If you look them up online you can get some really hilarious and cozy covers for them as well.

The absolute worst way to heat a room is with conventional AC’s, even if it’s one of the new ones. Sure, they heat up the room quick but because there is no insulation in Maltese houses, the cold walls and floors will knock that heat right out in a matter of minutes once you turn it off. Incredibly expensive and useless.

That’s it! Again, I’m not a scientist or an expert on the subject, I’m just very curious and economic and I like to know what is what and most importantly, WHY. I hope you enjoyed this guide. If you did, feel free to share it on your social media of choice or with friends and loved ones you want to keep warm this winter. Happy new year.

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